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Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas

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In the first-ever Seven Seas history of the world’s female buccaneers, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire f In the first-ever Seven Seas history of the world’s female buccaneers, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire for freedom. History has largely ignored these female swashbucklers, until now. Here are their stories, from ancient Norse princess Alfhild and warrior Rusla to Sayyida al-Hurra of the Barbary corsairs; from Grace O’Malley, who terrorized shipping operations around the British Isles during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; to Cheng I Sao, who commanded a fleet of four hundred ships off China in the early nineteenth century. Author Laura Sook Duncombe also looks beyond the stories to the storytellers and mythmakers. What biases and agendas motivated them? What did they leave out? Pirate Women explores why and how these stories are told and passed down, and how history changes depending on who is recording it. It’s the most comprehensive overview of women pirates in one volume and chock-full of swashbuckling adventures that pull these unique women from the shadows into the spotlight that they deserve. 


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In the first-ever Seven Seas history of the world’s female buccaneers, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire f In the first-ever Seven Seas history of the world’s female buccaneers, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire for freedom. History has largely ignored these female swashbucklers, until now. Here are their stories, from ancient Norse princess Alfhild and warrior Rusla to Sayyida al-Hurra of the Barbary corsairs; from Grace O’Malley, who terrorized shipping operations around the British Isles during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; to Cheng I Sao, who commanded a fleet of four hundred ships off China in the early nineteenth century. Author Laura Sook Duncombe also looks beyond the stories to the storytellers and mythmakers. What biases and agendas motivated them? What did they leave out? Pirate Women explores why and how these stories are told and passed down, and how history changes depending on who is recording it. It’s the most comprehensive overview of women pirates in one volume and chock-full of swashbuckling adventures that pull these unique women from the shadows into the spotlight that they deserve. 

30 review for Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzie

    I REALLY wanted to love this book, but I can't. It reads like it's written by an average intelligence 15 year old high school student, peppered with cliches and tangents. It's all over the place, and does not read like a nonfiction book should - you know, with facts, details, and relevant information. The author's passion to turn every pirate story into something about feminism is tiresome even to this outspoken, loud, "nasty" feminist. It was an absolute struggle to get through this short book, I REALLY wanted to love this book, but I can't. It reads like it's written by an average intelligence 15 year old high school student, peppered with cliches and tangents. It's all over the place, and does not read like a nonfiction book should - you know, with facts, details, and relevant information. The author's passion to turn every pirate story into something about feminism is tiresome even to this outspoken, loud, "nasty" feminist. It was an absolute struggle to get through this short book, which would be even shorter if you removed all irrelevant tangents, fictional stories about pirates, unfounded speculation, and a random last chapter devoted to summarizing every movie that features a female pirate (yes, you can even read all about Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann in this book that somehow managed to get published).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    As a longtime pirate aficionado and an even more longtime women's history aficionado, I was pretty stoked to find a copy of Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers who Ruled the Seven Seas at Porter Square Books this summer. I'd missed the author event, which I was bummed to find out about after the fact, but the book was signed, so I happily shelled out for the slim little purple hardcover. I had great hopes for learning a few new things when I brought this book to Maine last As a longtime pirate aficionado and an even more longtime women's history aficionado, I was pretty stoked to find a copy of Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers who Ruled the Seven Seas at Porter Square Books this summer. I'd missed the author event, which I was bummed to find out about after the fact, but the book was signed, so I happily shelled out for the slim little purple hardcover. I had great hopes for learning a few new things when I brought this book to Maine last weekend, or at least to have some fun revisiting the things I already know. Fifteen years of on-and-off piratical reading means I'm already fairly familiar with the stories of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, of Grace O'Malley, and of Cheng Yisao, who are basically the Big Four of female pirates who occasionally get talked about. In respect to the number of lady pirates whose stories are addressed, the book does not disappoint. The author, Laura Sook Duncombe, doesn't want to leave anybody out, and seems of the mind that more pirates are better than fewer, even if some are apocryphal, or outright fictional, or if they stretch the definition of "piracy" a little — for example, most of her ancient world examples are queens for whom raiding was considered a more or less legitimate form of warfare. This is fine and I think it was a good choice, since I also think more lady pirates is better reading than fewer lady pirates. As a result, I learned about a whole bunch of interesting women whose stories I hadn't previously heard of — Mary Wolverston, Lady Killigrew in Cornwall, whose entire family was engaged in piracy and fencing (not the swords kind) in the Elizabethan era; the New York river pirate called Sadie the Goat (a nickname that has only improved with age, as Sadie is indeed the #GOAT); Sayyida al-Hurra, a Barbary Coast pirate queen of the early 16th century; and many others. What is disappointing about this book, though, is that there is still not enough lady pirate history, in that the amount of page space dedicated to actually telling the reader about lady pirate history is heavily diluted with a lot of editorializing, moralizing, and trying to guess at/manage the reader's impressions. This is bad enough when Duncombe's reactions to things align with my own, since there is far too much of it; when we disagree on stuff, it becomes wildly distracting. I found much of Duncombe's editorializing to be frankly quite condescending (albeit condescending in a different way than you'll be condescended to if you're reading books on maritime history by old white dude naval historians who address these figures). The first example that really, really annoyed me was during the recounting of the "War of the Three Jeannes," a conflict in medieval Brittany that I'd inexcusably never heard of but is exactly the sort of vicious war of succession that is exactly what people read about medieval European history for. After her husband is killed, one of the Jeannes, Jeanne de Clisson, brings her sons to Nantes to show them that their father's head had been mounted on a pike for public display. To this, Duncombe says "To a modern reader it seems a bit puzzling, to say the least, that Jeanne would choose to expose her young sons to such violence." Like... actually, lady, as a modern reader, I already got past the sentences where King Philip put the dude's head on a pike for public display, which would expose everyone in Nantes to it, and while I am not a medievalist, I have also not lived under a rock for my whole life and I am familiar with the general concept of the Middle Ages. So no, it's not puzzling to me at all that the nobility of 14th-century Brittany would raise their children under different standards than those used by middle-class 21st-century Americans who have access to knowledge from the field of child development psychology, a field that was established in the 1920s. This is what I mean by condescending. I don't have a problem with Duncombe relating her own opinions — I'd never chastise a woman for expressing her opinion in a book about female pirates — but you come at me trying to feed me my own opinions, you'd better not miss and you'd REALLY better not miss THIS HARD. And frankly, you probably just shouldn't ever try to tell me my own opinions on stuff anyway even if you're correct, because I hate it. But even more awkward than the assumption that the reader has never heard of the Middle Ages are Duncombe's attempts to spin the history of women engaging in piracy as something that is uncomplicatedly FEMINIST AND EMPOWERING AND YAY. There are certainly shades of this in why people are interested in stories about pirates and other outlaws and about why women would be interested in stories of women pirates particularly. But Duncombe has fallen victim to the romance of it too hard to write about historical piracy with any sort of credibility, because when you start writing about piracy as a real thing that has happened, you quickly run up against the complication that, while feminism is good, piracy is actually bad. Duncombe writes things like "The heart of piracy is freedom" and it's like, that word "heart" is doing a lot of work there, because the core concept of piracy is "using boats to steal stuff." Freedom and following your dreams and escaping the confines of society are associations we have with piracy that are a part of why regular people who would probably not enjoy being the victims of crimes are often nonetheless fascinated with stories about criminals, whether it's pirates, gangsters, Western outlaws (not the same thing as cowboys; cowboy is an entirely legal profession that involves herding cattle), bank robbers, or what have you. The constant attempts to get inside historical figures' heads by randomly speculating and imputing high-minded values to them, such as "valuing freedom above all else" and the desire to do your own thing and what have you, are at best heavy-handed and annoying, like, it's OK to admit that they're criminals and that's what we find interesting about them; no need to try to pretend Anne Bonny is Mother Jones. It all comes off a bit "In 18th-century England, women weren't allowed to wear pants or to murder people and steal their stuff, maaan, think about it ::bong rip::". Duncombe seems to want to revel in stories of women transgressing the social boundaries of hundreds of years ago without having to deal with the bit where these women's careers are still transgressive of norms we have today, like that stealing people's boats isn't nice and neither is shooting them, with the result that it sort of ruins the actual transgressive thrill of reading about crime that is why I picked up a book about pirates in the first place and not one about, say, suffragettes or labor activists. The worst offense here comes when Duncombe gets to the end of relating to us the deliciously macabre story of the apocryphal streetwalker-turned-pirate Maria Cobham, a tour de force of over-the-top Gothic brutality in which the young Maria discovers that she LOVES MURDER and is just SO GOOD AT MURDER and gets more and more into committing INCREASINGLY GRUESOME MURDERS, all while her pirate husband who got her into this life is starting to go off the whole murder thing. They eventually get away with all of it and pull off ONE LAST MAJOR HEIST and use the proceeds to settle down in the French countryside and thumb their nose at the entire world by integrating seamlessly into respectable society and never having to account for their deeds. IT IS A GREAT STORY, and if you like reading about wacky morbid criminal shenanigans, you will enjoy it thoroughly. Duncombe promptly laments that Cobham "hits a discordant note in the ballad of pirate women" because she is "hard to root for," what with having been "a vicious, ruthless woman who was not drawn to the freedom or adventure of piracy so much as the murder." Girl. I say this with love, because you are clearly deeply committed to feminism and apparently friends with Jia Tolentino: YOU ARE WRITING THE WRONG BOOK HERE. You are raining on my Reading About Criminals parade with your moralizing, and if you want to put a spin of deep ideological commitment to freedom and liberty on stories of women doing crimes, I would suggest you find a way to get interested in any of the many female political activists and revolutionaries who engaged in violence and terrorism whose stories are also not told nearly enough, instead of dancing awkwardly around the entire idea of what piracy is. I'm sure there's a market for books about female political assassins just as much as there is for female pirates! 'Cause right now, you sound like this: Probably the best thing about the whole book is that Duncombe does religiously cite her sources, so it's easy to find further reading on all the many and varied stories that are touched on so shallowly in the book itself. I now know of a lot more interesting female pirate(ish) characters who may or may not have existed, and I have an extensive Further Reading list for all of them, all in one handy bundle with a very attractive purple cover. So that's good to have on hand even if I know I will never read the actual body text of this again. And I agree with the author and with probably every other lover of pirate stories that it's a shame none of these histories have been turned into decent movies. I think I'd love a souped-up costume drama TV series on the Killigrews of Cornwall, especially. Organized crime families make for some of the best TV series out there already; surely someone could pull it off without screwing it up. Originally posted at Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of girl power?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Disappointed. That's what I am right now. LADY PIRATES. THAT COVER. And yet. It was a slog to get through even being as short as it is. More than giving accounts of the lives of these women (or the legends of their lives for those there is no 'verifiable historical records' blahblahblah) it spent a lot of time on the men around them or the men who wrote the accounts and how they probably manipulated those accounts to their own purposes. This could have been a really entertaining as well as informa Disappointed. That's what I am right now. LADY PIRATES. THAT COVER. And yet. It was a slog to get through even being as short as it is. More than giving accounts of the lives of these women (or the legends of their lives for those there is no 'verifiable historical records' blahblahblah) it spent a lot of time on the men around them or the men who wrote the accounts and how they probably manipulated those accounts to their own purposes. This could have been a really entertaining as well as informative book, but instead it reads a bit more like a student who is trying to hammer in the point of men controlling the history of women. THEY PROBABLY WROTE DOWN THAT SHE KILLED HERSELF BECAUSE IT WAS A FITTING PUNISHMENT FOR THINKING SHE COULD DO A THING. Like, we get it. We get that's a thing that happened and still happens. It doesn't need to take over the stories you're trying to tell as well. Then the point you're trying to make overshadows and undermines the subjects of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Devann

    This book ...is hard to rate. I see a LOT of 2 star ratings on the front page here and I definitely agree with what they are saying, although I did manage to get enough enjoyment out of this to bump it up to 3 stars instead. My main reason for doing that is because I DID learn a lot of cool things from this book and there is a lot of good information in here ...but it's so disorganized and buried in the author's varied ranting that it's kind of hard to find at times. I did like the fact that she This book ...is hard to rate. I see a LOT of 2 star ratings on the front page here and I definitely agree with what they are saying, although I did manage to get enough enjoyment out of this to bump it up to 3 stars instead. My main reason for doing that is because I DID learn a lot of cool things from this book and there is a lot of good information in here ...but it's so disorganized and buried in the author's varied ranting that it's kind of hard to find at times. I did like the fact that she wrote all the sections chronologically though, I hate when books like this skip around between time periods. Honestly I think the main problem here is that the author didn't have enough information for a full length book, but instead of just accepting that and writing a novella she decided to cram filler sections in everywhere to pad everything out. This book could have been 100 pages shorter and it would have been much better. I understand the need for SOME context into the times these women were living in but when you spend literally half the chapter telling me the history of communism in 20th century China in a book that is supposed to be about PIRATES we've got a problem. Also I know a lot of people are completely ignorant about history, but if you're writing a history themed book then assume your audience has an interest and some basic knowledge and don't talk down to them so much. Another thing the author does to mindlessly fill space is constantly tell us that this information comes from second hand accounts that were written by men who probably changed these women's stories because sexism. Which like ...I don't even disagree with this! It's definitely true [in some cases]! But you don't need to spend several paragraphs discussing it in every. single. chapter. Maybe just have like a blanket statement in the introduction about women historically not being able to tell their own stories and move on. And the whole thing is made even more hilarious because the author then proceeds to push her own views on the women she is writing about and speculate wildly about the motivations behind all of their decisions for several pages. Also she keeps trying to like ...make them nicer I guess? Listen, every woman in history does not have to be a good role model and these women are PIRATES. They literally run around stealing from and killing people. That is what pirates do. Some are definitely better or worse than others, but the fact that she kept trying to turn women pirates into some kind of a morality tale was just baffling [as well as hypocritical since she was getting mad at other historians for doing basically the same thing, although to very different ends]. Also, while I know that we can't 100% say for certain if a lot of these women were real, she added pirates that were definitely fictional. Like there were at least two stories that we confirmed as fiction during the time period they took place and SHE STILL PUT THEM IN THERE. Then there's a chapter about the end that is supposed to be about female pirates in movies but somehow ends up talking about Thelma & Louise and some romcom that I don't even remember the name of? I swear she's got ADD and no editor because she just cannot stay on track. Ok, after reading all that you're probably sitting here like 'so WHY are you giving it 3 stars?' and the answer really is just that there was a lot of good information and also she cites all her sources so it's easy to go do some extra reading on your own if you want to. I really feel like this could have been a 5 star book if she had just cut literally half of it out and I am going to choose to remember the actual informational half of the book and say this is a 2.5 rounded up to 3.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe Davoust

    This was a short but hard-to-read book that belies its whimsical title and well-designed book jacket. I chose this book after the author's appearance on NPR's This American Life where she was interviewed about a specific Chinese pirate queen. Based on the entertaining story she told on the radio show, I was expecting some informative and entertaining pirate yarns, but instead got a treatise on how there really aren't enough female pirate stories to tell. For almost every instance of female pirac This was a short but hard-to-read book that belies its whimsical title and well-designed book jacket. I chose this book after the author's appearance on NPR's This American Life where she was interviewed about a specific Chinese pirate queen. Based on the entertaining story she told on the radio show, I was expecting some informative and entertaining pirate yarns, but instead got a treatise on how there really aren't enough female pirate stories to tell. For almost every instance of female piracy, the author tells us that we can't be sure they really existed, or that they were really pirates, or if they are real, the sources cannot be relied upon to be accurate or unbiased. What we end up with is a disjointed mishmash of paragraphs that support any number of ideas. Instead of focusing exclusively on the title subject. Themes addressed include politics, feminism, cinematography, suffrage, methods of recording history, general crime, war, race relations, and immigration. These themes are at best only tangentially connected to stories of female pirates. In fact, probably because of a dearth of information, the author classifies many woman as pirates where others may not. Criminals, royals, warlords, street thugs, revolutionaries, convicts, and opportunistic wives and mistresses are included for deeds that most would not say were purely piratical. In her chapters lumping similar pirate women by geography or era, the author also often includes a clearly defined fictional tale of a female pirate, and gives it the same attention as a real historical figure. I don't know what the author was trying to convey... If it was to tell us stories of female pirates, she gives so many disclaimers as to the veracity of their existence, I had a hard time following the narrative. If it was to correct the wrongs of historians who did not report enough about female pirates, then she needs more proof that they truly existed in enough numbers or importance to support her stance. If it was to support a certain sympathetic or cautionary attitude toward these female pirates, then a more directed or cohesive argument should have been put forth. And, if it was to insert herself as an authority on the subject, which she certainly is entitled to given her clearly vast research on the subject, she needed to assert more definitively her case without constantly asking questions about the value or truth of her sources or her conclusions.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jaclynn

    This is more a book about the IDEA of female pirates. My biggest gripe with this book is that it sells itself as a history of female pirates. What it ends up being is a regurgitation of all the female pirates that MAY have existed, and many who most certainly did not (which the author admits). The only pirate I've ever really known much about was Cheng I Sao, and even with her we don't know her real name or specific details of the beginning of end of her life. I had the impression that the autho This is more a book about the IDEA of female pirates. My biggest gripe with this book is that it sells itself as a history of female pirates. What it ends up being is a regurgitation of all the female pirates that MAY have existed, and many who most certainly did not (which the author admits). The only pirate I've ever really known much about was Cheng I Sao, and even with her we don't know her real name or specific details of the beginning of end of her life. I had the impression that the author had written this as part of a thesis...it reads like a term paper. Ambitious but failed to hit the mark.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Fantastic. I want movies/tv shows about everyone of these women.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole | Sorry, I'm Booked

    Pirate Women was just one of those really fun reads about a topic that I don’t really get to learn about unless I watch the History Channel all the time. I actually came across Pirate Women in a local bookstore and immediately looked it up in my library to see if they had an audiobook version that I could borrow. Luckily, they did! We all know that there are many women who have made discoveries or did something great in their lives and not be credited for it; at least not until way after they’ve Pirate Women was just one of those really fun reads about a topic that I don’t really get to learn about unless I watch the History Channel all the time. I actually came across Pirate Women in a local bookstore and immediately looked it up in my library to see if they had an audiobook version that I could borrow. Luckily, they did! We all know that there are many women who have made discoveries or did something great in their lives and not be credited for it; at least not until way after they’ve died. So I enjoy learning about historical women; it’s just unfortunate that history for the most part is not only white washed but it’s also male washed (is that a term?). Duncombe not only told the stories of these women, but she also delved deeper to try and find out what motivated them to become pirates. I really enjoyed this one!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    I expected the book to be a series of short biographies of female pirates throughout history but Duncombe is instead as interested in the idea of female pirates in their respective cultural contexts as the women themselves. The early chapters are surprisingly dull as Duncombe discusses Viking and Ottoman society with little attention to the female pirates of these time periods. The book becomes more dramatic during the Golden Age of Piracy as Anne Bonny and Mary Read are better documented than t I expected the book to be a series of short biographies of female pirates throughout history but Duncombe is instead as interested in the idea of female pirates in their respective cultural contexts as the women themselves. The early chapters are surprisingly dull as Duncombe discusses Viking and Ottoman society with little attention to the female pirates of these time periods. The book becomes more dramatic during the Golden Age of Piracy as Anne Bonny and Mary Read are better documented than their predecessors. The section of the 19th century discusses some fascinating and little known Australian and Canadian pirates as well as a fictional tale of a Canadian woman pirate that is often mistaken for historical fact. In the introduction, Duncombe describes herself as a storyteller rather than a historian but the book does not entirely succeed as either storytelling or history. The historical analysis is superficial and the dry tone of the book often detracts from the storytelling. Nevertheless, Duncombe provides an interesting study of the appeal of fictional pirate stories with female characters. The book also brings some fascinating historical figures out of obscurity. The audiobook is read in an unhelpful monotone by Hillary Huber who is far more expressive in her readings of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    In reality, I'm giving this something more like a 2.5 out of 5 stars because it was rough going. I love pirates. Growing up on the Eastern seaboard where there's tales of rum runners, shipwrecks, and even just the smell of the ocean, it's hard not to get swept up into everything pirate. So when I saw the title and cover, I was sold - oh boy I should have tempered expectations. The first couple of chapters had me hooked, I was there with the author - ra ra ra, women rock! As this book continued, I f In reality, I'm giving this something more like a 2.5 out of 5 stars because it was rough going. I love pirates. Growing up on the Eastern seaboard where there's tales of rum runners, shipwrecks, and even just the smell of the ocean, it's hard not to get swept up into everything pirate. So when I saw the title and cover, I was sold - oh boy I should have tempered expectations. The first couple of chapters had me hooked, I was there with the author - ra ra ra, women rock! As this book continued, I felt like the author was beating me with the book, hammering in "equality equality equality!" and "down with male misogynistic historians!". For the record, I, much like many of the readers of this book I would assume, already agree with those sentiments, so why are you punishing us? This repetition made me exhausted by the end of the book. I also have to dock her points for shitting on Geena Davis' movie Cutthroat Island. Sure, it was a box office flop, but it plays into her narrative, so she shouldn't be so harsh. Also, I thought, this is supposed to be about women who existed, not Hollywood characters. Spoiler - she talks a lot about fictional characters. Additionally, I took issue with how much she jumped around in each chapter, it was far too much for how short the chapters were. I understand that there isn't much information about these women, their lives, etc. - not an uncommon occurrence for women throughout history as she points out at least three times per chapter. All in all, I wouldn't recommend this book unless you really think you're going to get something out of it. If you do choose to read it, skip the last chapter entirely, unless you want to read the author explain the plot of all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for far too long.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I do not understand what this book was trying to do. It seemed academic in tone but then it was full of opinions and biases? It was a lot of historiography and unnecessary context and tangents. Stories of fictional female pirates were written of alongside real pirates, and the author's opinion was so strong that it made it hard to read. I understand that she is trying to tell stories of women that are not prioritized in the historic record but she is going overboard to the point where she is try I do not understand what this book was trying to do. It seemed academic in tone but then it was full of opinions and biases? It was a lot of historiography and unnecessary context and tangents. Stories of fictional female pirates were written of alongside real pirates, and the author's opinion was so strong that it made it hard to read. I understand that she is trying to tell stories of women that are not prioritized in the historic record but she is going overboard to the point where she is trying to convince me that this female murderer just made bad choices in life. There also were only two chapters on Chinese pirates and the way they were written about was very....I don't know, it seems like she didn't do enough research on China but I'm not Chinese and cannot speak on this definitively. Weird book. Made me want to research more from other authors.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karri

    First off, let me state that as a female, I fully believe that women can conquer the world if they so choose, which is why I picked up this book. I mean, women pirates, heck yah! Unfortunately, this was a DNF. From the Intro on, this felt more like a dry as dust history lesson interspersed with diatribes on the author's personal views of the oppressive nature of men and how women are misrepresented throughout history. She can't seem to help but attribute every male writer with nefarious motives First off, let me state that as a female, I fully believe that women can conquer the world if they so choose, which is why I picked up this book. I mean, women pirates, heck yah! Unfortunately, this was a DNF. From the Intro on, this felt more like a dry as dust history lesson interspersed with diatribes on the author's personal views of the oppressive nature of men and how women are misrepresented throughout history. She can't seem to help but attribute every male writer with nefarious motives in what they write regarding women and women pirates. I soon became weary of her constant male bashing. No, history didn't always favor women, but it's not all hidden agendas and misogyny either. Take what she says with a grain of salt.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Val

    To give you an idea how tangential and poorly organized this book "about pirate women" is, topics discussed include: the communist revolution in China, the creation of the transcontinental railroad, and Thelma and Louise... To give you an idea how tangential and poorly organized this book "about pirate women" is, topics discussed include: the communist revolution in China, the creation of the transcontinental railroad, and Thelma and Louise...

  14. 4 out of 5

    A.M.G. ☮Hippie/Fantasia☮

    Rating: 1.8 / 5 The difficult part about reviewing this book is that its advantages and drawbacks are one and the same, depending on how you look at them. For one thing, I think it's admirable that the author took it upon herself to write a book about a topic so marginalized in the general knowledge of humanity; but, at the same time, I regret and was irritated by the lack of factual information to support the endeavor. On the one hand, in the introduction the author makes it clear that the term Rating: 1.8 / 5 The difficult part about reviewing this book is that its advantages and drawbacks are one and the same, depending on how you look at them. For one thing, I think it's admirable that the author took it upon herself to write a book about a topic so marginalized in the general knowledge of humanity; but, at the same time, I regret and was irritated by the lack of factual information to support the endeavor. On the one hand, in the introduction the author makes it clear that the term "piracy" is an unclear one; but, on the other hand, does that really justify what a reader will later on find out to be the stories of women throughout different eras that are only loosely connected by some naval exploits (some not directly ever stepping foot on a ship themselves, it should be added)? She connects more well-known historical facts and data in loose connection to her "pirate" tales, but...well, it pissed me off, quite frankly, that she would connect the career of a female pirate like Sayyida al-Hurra to Suleiman the Magnificent's decision to marry Hurrem (Roxelena) and break a centuries-old Ottoman tradition. There's just...no legitimate connection there, and it's maddening that the author would think to write about the two side-by-side as causal events, at the same time whilst claiming that they may or may not have any connection whatsoever. In the introduction, again, the author claims that she's not out to write a biography because she's not a historian, but boy does she sound like she's trying to be! Her writing suggests a know-it-all attitude about historical events, with just enough "tact" (if you want to call it that) of stepping back for a moment and saying, "Or so it would seem, based on blah blah blah vague sources." I could go on and on, but why bother? If I could barely get through the book (and I didn't) without feeling pissed off, then what's to say I'll have success with this review (which I'm not). The only thing I want to say before ending off is that I really tried to like this book. No, seriously, I tried. For all of the above and many more instances in the seventy or so pages that I managed to get through, I tried to excuse the author's mistakes and appreciate the work for what it was. But, the thing is, I don't know what exactly she was going for, because it's neither historical fiction or nonfiction, so I've decided to classify it as both. When studying history, which is what I hoped to get from this book but did not, I expect facts, or, at the very least, as close as one can come to facts without lending too much of their bias to the text and making connections that just aren't there. The author has fallen into this trap though, and, for that, I'm penalizing this book hereafter. I can't really recommend this to anyone, since I'm not sure what exactly the target audience, or even purpose of this book, is supposed to be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Pirate Women covers the history of women who were pirates, in fact and in fiction, and when it comes to pirates, fact and fiction are never very far apart. What is remarkable about the story of women pirates is that there have been so many who fit into the admittedly large and hard to define category. Still, I dare anyone to quibble with any of Duncombe's choices -- all the women portrayed were on the wrong side of the law. They robbed, kidnapped, maimed, and murdered, everything you'd expect of Pirate Women covers the history of women who were pirates, in fact and in fiction, and when it comes to pirates, fact and fiction are never very far apart. What is remarkable about the story of women pirates is that there have been so many who fit into the admittedly large and hard to define category. Still, I dare anyone to quibble with any of Duncombe's choices -- all the women portrayed were on the wrong side of the law. They robbed, kidnapped, maimed, and murdered, everything you'd expect of a pirate. In the course of the book, we also learn a good deal about the men who were pirates, but women always take center stage. The most successful pirate ever, the one who commanded the most underlings and the most ships, stole the most, and even lived to die of old age, was a woman, Cheng I Sao, an early 19th century Chinese pirate. Why hasn't everyone heard of her? Duncombe discusses the question, as well as how women pirates, a seemingly excellent movie subject, have rarely been portrayed on the big screen. An enlightening, thoughtful, and fun book. (Thanks to Chicago Review Press and Edelweiss for a digital review copy.)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kiki Z

    The main problem with this book is the author doesn't have much to work with. Most female pirates aren't well-documented in history and even if they are, their stories are colored by era-appropriate sexism and racism. I appreciate the author for writing this and she certainly did her research as well as pointed out the different ways in which these women's stories have been affected by men and historical bullshit. But frankly, it felt too long for the amount of information we have. The main problem with this book is the author doesn't have much to work with. Most female pirates aren't well-documented in history and even if they are, their stories are colored by era-appropriate sexism and racism. I appreciate the author for writing this and she certainly did her research as well as pointed out the different ways in which these women's stories have been affected by men and historical bullshit. But frankly, it felt too long for the amount of information we have.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe is the first-ever collection of stories about women pirates, real and legendary. "[T]o be a pirate is to assert that whatever you fancy belongs to you." This was written to describe sixteenth‑century pirate Grace O’Malley. While it is difficult to define exactly what would constitute a pirate, Duncombe takes a broadly defined look at the definition beyond the golden age of piracy. All pirates Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe is the first-ever collection of stories about women pirates, real and legendary. "[T]o be a pirate is to assert that whatever you fancy belongs to you." This was written to describe sixteenth‑century pirate Grace O’Malley. While it is difficult to define exactly what would constitute a pirate, Duncombe takes a broadly defined look at the definition beyond the golden age of piracy. All pirates had the desire for freedom to live as they chose as a common denominator, but female pirates are often absent in historical accounts. "Pirates live outside the laws of man, but women pirates live outside the laws of nature. Women pirates are left out because they don’t fit nicely into the categories of 'normal' women or traditional women's virtues." Since traditional historians are men, accurate historical information about women pirates is lacking. "As long as men control the narrative, women pirates will be mostly left out. Even if male historians today were inclined to write about pirate women, they would have a difficult time doing so because of the dearth of primary sources about them. Since women have been considered unworthy subjects of historical documentation in the past, it is now difficult to study them - a vicious cycle that persists in keeping women 'off the record.'" The women pirates Duncombe covers include, in part: Queen Artemisia I of Halicarnassus; Queen Teuta of Illyria, or "the Terror of the Adriatic"; Christina Anna Skytte; Elise Eskilsdotter; Ingela Gathenhielm; Johanna Hård; longship captains Wisna, Webiorg, and Hetha; Princess Alfhild, also called Awilda; Jeanne de Montfort, aka Joanna of Flanders; Jeanne de Clisson, aka the Lioness of Brittany; Sayyida al‑Hurra; Lady Elizabeth and Lady Mary Killigrew; Gráinne (Grace) Ní Mháille, the pirate queen of Ireland; Anne de Graaf; Jacquotte Delahaye; Anne Dieu‑le‑veut; Anne Bonny; Mary Read; Maria Cobham; Martha (Mary) Farley (or Harvey); Maria Crichett (or Mary Crickett/Crichett); Flora Burn; Rachel Wall; Charlotte Badger; Catherine Hagerty; Margaret Croke; Cheng I Sao (with four hundred ships and somewhere between forty thousand and sixty thousand pirates under her command); Sadie Farrell, aka Sadie the Goat; Gallus Mag: Lai Choi San; Hon‑ cho (or Honcho Lo); and Cheng Chui Ping, aka Sister. There is also a discussion of women pirates in the movies. This is a well-researched, thoughtful, scholarly account of the women in history, real or fictional, that have made a mark as a pirate. Pirate Women includes a list of general resources, specific sources used for each chapter, and an index for those who would like more information on the historical records. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Chicago Review Press.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lulu (the library leopard)

    That was fascinating! Not only was it an interesting, comprehensive look at female pirates through history, it also explains the context of the time period and analyzes how stories have been invented/ changed over history and how stories can reflect the treatment of women during specific times. Anyway, I'm starting a petition to get a movie or TV show for every one of these women. You listening, Hollywood? That was fascinating! Not only was it an interesting, comprehensive look at female pirates through history, it also explains the context of the time period and analyzes how stories have been invented/ changed over history and how stories can reflect the treatment of women during specific times. Anyway, I'm starting a petition to get a movie or TV show for every one of these women. You listening, Hollywood?

  19. 5 out of 5

    SR

    About 30% actual history, 30% discussing the problems inherent in relying on secondary sources written by men of their times regarding women of completely different times, countries, and backgrounds (the author is particularly put out by the portrayals of privateers and Golden Age pirates), and 40% analysis and criticism of media - encompassing the secondary sources from which the various women pirates' stories are extracted or interpolated, fiction based on pirates whose existences have been co About 30% actual history, 30% discussing the problems inherent in relying on secondary sources written by men of their times regarding women of completely different times, countries, and backgrounds (the author is particularly put out by the portrayals of privateers and Golden Age pirates), and 40% analysis and criticism of media - encompassing the secondary sources from which the various women pirates' stories are extracted or interpolated, fiction based on pirates whose existences have been confirmed by historical record, and general fiction about piracy and women. The last chapter is a manifesto on the importance of varied and full depictions of women in cinema and other media, and on the importance of narrative control - the author points out that most of the people she's written about were originally spun as cautionary tales (by ancient Greeks through Victorians), that the women who were tried usually only escaped death sentences because of pregnancies, and that only one - Sister Ping - has anything like an autobiography. And Sister Ping organized illegal immigration from China to the US from her hq and restaurant in NYC's Chinatown - a conceptual pirate, a pirate of the 80s and 90s who never owned a ship. I was really pleased by the author's dedication to pointing out and analyzing the reliability (or lack thereof) of her sources; in these sorts of pop-history books, sourcing is rarely given so much attention. However, I acknowledge the approach isn't for everyone, and I'm wondering how much that level of "okay, this story is cool in theory but only two facts are verified and it's probably this dead white guy's fever dream, unfortunately" is contributing to the low rating. The title of the book certainly suggests different content - a collection of women pirates in history, how fun! But I think if someone were to protest that they wanted an ACTUAL collection of such, not a critical analysis of the concept, the author would pretty much shrug and reply that, really, this is as good as it gets until we invent time travel, too bad. So - if you like critical readings about the nature of historical records of the deeds and presences of women, you're good. If you want fun pirate hijinks, uh, watch the Disney series.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bexa

    This is decently written and decently researched, the problem lies is that most of the research is very minimal. Through no fault of the author, there just isn't a lot of information out there about women pirates of history. The only gripe I really have with it is that the author chooses to do a lot of speculating to fill the pages since there's a lack of facts to do so. I'm not really sure why Alfhild didn't refuse to marry the Viking prince when he basically kidnapped her after fighting her pi This is decently written and decently researched, the problem lies is that most of the research is very minimal. Through no fault of the author, there just isn't a lot of information out there about women pirates of history. The only gripe I really have with it is that the author chooses to do a lot of speculating to fill the pages since there's a lack of facts to do so. I'm not really sure why Alfhild didn't refuse to marry the Viking prince when he basically kidnapped her after fighting her pirate crew, but I'm not going to try and guess. The author also makes an effort to hit all regions of piracy, and combines a lot of information already out there into one book. The cover is really cool too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jen Hoskins

    The title alone sold me on this book—how could it not? But in the end I was a little disappointed. While Laura Sook Duncombe often has to reach to find women who could ostensibly claim the title of pirate—covering fictional pirate wives and real suffragists—this is understandable, due to the way women often get elided from history. But down to the number of subjects covered in the book, I found each portrait to be a bit thin on substance. It’s an all right book, and maybe other readers will enjo The title alone sold me on this book—how could it not? But in the end I was a little disappointed. While Laura Sook Duncombe often has to reach to find women who could ostensibly claim the title of pirate—covering fictional pirate wives and real suffragists—this is understandable, due to the way women often get elided from history. But down to the number of subjects covered in the book, I found each portrait to be a bit thin on substance. It’s an all right book, and maybe other readers will enjoy it more than I did.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherrie

    Duncombe is very open about the fact that not much actual historical data exists for these stories of female swashbucklers - she had to put together this book from mostly second hand sources and adventure tales written decades after they could have occurred. Still - if you are using this book as a reference for your own writing, it's a decent jumping off point to spur on your imagination. Duncombe is very open about the fact that not much actual historical data exists for these stories of female swashbucklers - she had to put together this book from mostly second hand sources and adventure tales written decades after they could have occurred. Still - if you are using this book as a reference for your own writing, it's a decent jumping off point to spur on your imagination.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    An engaging glimpse at the frustrations of untold histories and the lengths we must go to fill in the gaps. This is a postmodern history, so don't expect a stereotypical tome. The chapter on Sister Ping was the most provocative. Seriously, more pirate movies featuring women! An engaging glimpse at the frustrations of untold histories and the lengths we must go to fill in the gaps. This is a postmodern history, so don't expect a stereotypical tome. The chapter on Sister Ping was the most provocative. Seriously, more pirate movies featuring women!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne French

    I desperately wanted to love this novel but didn't. If you have to state every two pages that there isn't enough information/historical records/reliable sources to finish the stories you start, then maybe there isn't enough information to write a book... I desperately wanted to love this novel but didn't. If you have to state every two pages that there isn't enough information/historical records/reliable sources to finish the stories you start, then maybe there isn't enough information to write a book...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emelia

    RTC I am binge reading ! Woo Hoo

  26. 4 out of 5

    Artemis

    An intriguing, well-researched book chronologizing the pirate women of history. The heroines and anti-heroines of the Seven Seas: real, made-up, and somewhere in between. Due to there existing, to this date, virtually no extensive records or documents of the eras of pirating and privateers pre-20th century - much less any concrete information concerning female pirates - the line between fact and fiction is extremely blurred on these swashbuckling, freedom-loving, leaves-no-prisoners outlaws of th An intriguing, well-researched book chronologizing the pirate women of history. The heroines and anti-heroines of the Seven Seas: real, made-up, and somewhere in between. Due to there existing, to this date, virtually no extensive records or documents of the eras of pirating and privateers pre-20th century - much less any concrete information concerning female pirates - the line between fact and fiction is extremely blurred on these swashbuckling, freedom-loving, leaves-no-prisoners outlaws of the perilous world of the sea. Laura Sook Duncombe does preface that any research on the pirate women she discusses in her book should be taken with a grain of salt, and that as a lover of pirates she tries to give as much information as she can find, taken from sources that by are all accounts credible, vague and dubious, all at once. With a frustrating lack of founded evidence for this particular area of historical interest, some bias and guesswork is expected. Myths and legends can hold truths to them, as well. In 'Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas', the reader learns about Queen Artemisia I of Halicarnassus, Queen Teuta, the Viking Ladgerda, Norse Princess Alfhild, Jeanne de Monfort, Jeanne de Clisson, Sayyida al-Hurra of the Barbary corsairs (ruler of the western Mediterranean for twenty years and consort to the sultan of Morocco), Lady Mary Killigrew, Grace O'Malley (Pirate Queen and enemy/rumoured friend of Queen Elizabeth I), Anne de Graaf, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Charlotte de Berry, Margaret Jordan, the bloodthirsty Maria Cobham, Mary Ann Townsend (rumoured wife of Blackbeard, real name Edward Teach), Cheng I Sao (aka the most successful pirate of all time), Lai Choi San (possible originator of the dragon lady stereotype, though not by her choice), Cheng Chui Ping (aka Sister Ping, human smuggler and hero of China in the 20th century), and many more. All these amazing women are barely known in the public consciousness and are almost never talked about in history books, lectures and programs, despite them having lived fascinating lives filled with worldly influences and both successes and failures; worthy of various film adaptations. Women have always been complex people yearning for freedom as much as anyone else. But history is told by the victors and those in power (read: white men) who would want to keep women "in their place" and remain chaste, weak and subservient creatures existing only as pretty baby-makers, not interested or even capable of having exciting adventures. Nearly all the pirate women listed in this book were married, some more than once, and succeeded in piracy only after the death of a pirate husband. However, that doesn't lessen a doubloon of their awe-aspiring existence, as they sailed ships, commandeered fleets, organized crime waves, looted, pillaged treasure, deceived, and even murdered onshore and at sea. Duncombe writes about the ages of piracy and how it came about. She details the different boats used, the regimes, the contrasting piratical and naval conditions (pirates' lives appear more equal and free in their democracies), and other products of the pirate women's times. Restrictions based on gender would only make them want the life of an outlaw even more. Though Duncombe does go off topic sometimes in describing various aspects of piracy before getting into the bones - the nitty gritty - of the women and their stories she is meant to be talking about, she is an engaging writer. I was actually immersed in the history lesson, rather than bored out of my skull. To know that women like Grace O'Malley, Cheng I Sao, Lai Choi San, and Cheng Chui Ping existed is exciting and liberating enough, and to learn further about their worlds and how they possibly lived in them is essential to my understanding of them as people, information skewed as it is on verification. A woman's perspective - an obscured window - into history is a rare jewel, nay, a hidden horde of valuable treasure, in of itself. It seems my attraction to pirates and pirate women - until a couple of years ago I hadn't known there was ever such a thing, that's how powerful a hold the patriarchy has on history - is not founded on pop culture superficiality alone. A lot of fictional stories about them I find to be surprisingly dull - what a crime, for if there is one thing pirates should absolutely not be, it is boring! - but this non-fiction collection of famous and forgotten pirates is fulfilling to my buccaneering, adventuress-wishing heart. Duncombe also mentions pirate women that are most definitely fictional and more legendary than fact, such as Jacquotte Delahaye, Gunpowder Gertie and Fanny Campbell, and in her last chapter talks about the tragically few pirate women on the big screen. There's 'Anne of the Indies' (1951), and one of the biggest box office bombs in cinematic history, 'Cutthroat Island' (1995), which was the reason why Hollywood studios avoided pirate movies - as well as adding another excuse for not making movies about women - until the colossal success of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movies from Disney, started in 2003, and is still spawning sequels to this day. Pirate properties aren't making much headway or lasting popularity, however. I also disagree with Duncombe's assessment of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' first trilogy's only female pirate, Elizabeth Swann; which is positive despite practically every aspect of Elizabeth's pirate life being forced on her, with no choice made on her part, including the vote for her to be the king of the pirates in 'At World's End'. In the same film, Duncombe praises Elizabeth for her given status (again, she has no choice or agency of her own) as captain of a ship by its previous captain as he lays dying, neglecting to mention that that same man tried to rape her not ten seconds beforehand. Elizabeth Swann is mostly a bore, also a target for sexual innuendos, who leaves so much to be desired for the chance to see exciting portrayals of female pirates in pop culture. Plus she's played by Keira Knightley, but that's a negative bias of mine and not a valid criticism. But oh yo ho ho, what a triumph 'Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas' is for me! Not perfect, but it's the best thing a modern pirate and pirate women fan can hope for in receiving as much knowledge about them as is available. Funny how I had thought that I would rate this feminist text the lowest out of the most recent ones read - it has a low score on Goodreads - but 'Pirate Women' ended up being the only text I like, satisfying me in terms of new, heart-pounding content and engaging writing, coming from a place of love and necessity. These females, for all the risks they took, the sacrifices they made, the storms they weathered, and the brutal, bloody life-and-death situations they went through, cannot be forgotten. A feminist history book to be preserved for the ages; for the adventuress at heart in every generation. Inspiration from the heart of the sea. Final Score: 4/5

  27. 5 out of 5

    CJ - It's only a Paper Moon

    I'll be honest, the writing was engaging enough to keep my interest BUT the book didn't know what it wanted to be. Was it a biography of female pirates? Was it a sociological discourse on the necessity of the female pirate in whatever form she comes in? Was it a snapshot of history in times that had pirates that happened to be female - real or imagined-? I'd say more the latter. This is less a book about female pirates and more about the idea of a female pirate loosely tied in with political and g I'll be honest, the writing was engaging enough to keep my interest BUT the book didn't know what it wanted to be. Was it a biography of female pirates? Was it a sociological discourse on the necessity of the female pirate in whatever form she comes in? Was it a snapshot of history in times that had pirates that happened to be female - real or imagined-? I'd say more the latter. This is less a book about female pirates and more about the idea of a female pirate loosely tied in with political and geographical history and fictional pirates. And women who weren't really pirates. The author seemed very very enthusiastic about this subject and she definitely wrote with reverence and passion when discussing her subject - female pirates (the real ones more than the fictional ones) and she did mention Cutthroat Island (huge win in my book. And yes, I realize what movie I'm talking about). However, the book went off on tangents about other subjects that were, perhaps, extraneous. The subject itself is fairly thin considering historical records and who wrote them and there is a lot of filler. More than was necessary, or prudent, for this book but interesting. Just related to more adjacent subjects than the female pirate. I understand that a little bit of history needs to be exposed before jumping into the pirate but that history almost became its own subject, as well as seeming to fluff the unknown history of a female pirate. Those parts of the book, when the author spoke about the history, the cultural impact, and the romanticization of pirates, that's when the author shone. That's where my interest was simultaneously gained and lost. I wanted to know more about the history and lost sight of the pirate. Again, the writing isn't the problem. It's engaging and informational. But again, this book has a lot of tangents and a slip-of-the-grasp hold on the subject matter. If you are looking for in-depth history on female pirates or the discourse surrounding them or if you are looking for a coherent and decisive subject related to female pirates, you won't necessarily find it here. However, if you are looking for an interesting book about the world with female pirates in it, then I suggest you read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Vallar

    Men and victors have been the predominant recorders of events throughout history. Their opinions and societal norms color their objectivity. As a result, women and their participation in historical events are either omitted from these accounts or given short shrift. Or as Duncombe writes: “Pirates live outside the laws of man, but women pirates live outside the laws of nature.” (xi) This is a reality that she encountered time and again in her research for this book. A prime example of this is Gr Men and victors have been the predominant recorders of events throughout history. Their opinions and societal norms color their objectivity. As a result, women and their participation in historical events are either omitted from these accounts or given short shrift. Or as Duncombe writes: “Pirates live outside the laws of man, but women pirates live outside the laws of nature.” (xi) This is a reality that she encountered time and again in her research for this book. A prime example of this is Grace O’Malley, one of the few names the general public readily recognizes. Although this Irish “pirate queen” was a major thorn in the side of the English and had a private meeting with her contemporary, Queen Elizabeth I, archival mention her is scant. It is the bards of Ireland who have kept her alive. In this highly readable and interesting account, Duncombe collects the known women who dared to become pirates. Yet this book is far more than just a look at well-researched history; among the women here one finds fictional female rogues too. She shares what is known about these people, as well as what is missing about them. In the process she clearly identifies whether this information can be proven historically or if it’s just a myth. She asks thought-provoking questions along the way to stimulate readers’ curiosity and further discussion. The women who are often discussed in pirate histories – including Queen Teuta of Illyria, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Cheng I Sao, and Grace O’Malley – are found in this collection. So are names that rarely see the light of day, such as Sayyida al-Hurra, Maria Cobham, Lai Choi, and Rachel Wall. Duncombe even mentions the suggestion that Bartholomew Roberts might have been a woman in disguise. Rather than use footnotes or end notes, she seamlessly weaves this information into her narrative, removing the need to search for this elsewhere and thus break its flow. Pirate Women also includes fictional pirates, such as Anne de Graaf, Jacquotte Delahaye, and Gunpowder Gertie. Duncombe provides an index and “To Find Out More” lists for general pirate and chapter-by-chapter subject resources. Most of the latter are secondary and tertiary sources, rather than primary documents. What this book is not is strictly a history of women pirates. Duncombe tends to stray from that narrow theme, but with purpose, and she always returns to the original subject before moving on to the next pirate. Examples of this come when she discusses courtesans in ancient times, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent’s marriage to one of his concubines, or binding women’s feet in China. Her use of a broad definition of piracy allows her to demonstrate the evolution of what constituteds piracy in different time periods. It also permits the inclusion of women who have no direct connection to maritime piracy, such as Cheng Chui Ping, a snakehead (human trafficker). The weakest chapter in this book is the last, “The Pirates of the Silver Screen.” Although several pirate films are discussed because they focus on fictional female pirates, Duncombe also examines Bonnie and Clyde and An Unmarried Woman – neither of which involves pirates. She concludes the chapter with a criticism on Hollywood’s portrayal of and treatment of women in film. Pirate Women is a good introduction to female pirates and the eras in which they lived. As Duncombe says, “Pirate women deserve a spot next to their more famous male counterparts because yearning to escape the confines of an ordinary life and to live on one’s own terms is not an exclusively male feeling.” (228) Her purpose in writing this book is to inspire the next generation of women to strive to be innovators. But are pirates the best role model to achieve this goal? There are several reasons, however, why Pirate Women is a valuable addition to the handful of books that deal exclusively with these females predators. Presented in chronological sequence from ancient times to the present, it is an extensive list that includes far more than any other volume. Earlier titles often focus on only a small sample or examine women associated with piracy, but who aren’t actually pirates themselves, during a specific time period. More importantly, Duncombe incorporates the society, culture, and historical events of the period in which each woman lives. This means she examines them as part of a whole, rather than a single aspect of their lives. Equally noteworthy is the inclusion of the people who have told each pirate’s story and how their motivations impacted their renderings of her.

  29. 5 out of 5

    The Lost Dreamer

    As so many people has pointed in the reviews, disappointing. The idea is not only great, but necessary. Clearly the stories of the women compiled in this book needed and still need to be told properly. It is a fact that historiaography is riddled with sexist bias and that it's almost impossible to find proper History books that pay any serious attention to the females that could be involved in the matters treated. Of course, piracy is not an exception. Unfortunately, this book is lame. It feels l As so many people has pointed in the reviews, disappointing. The idea is not only great, but necessary. Clearly the stories of the women compiled in this book needed and still need to be told properly. It is a fact that historiaography is riddled with sexist bias and that it's almost impossible to find proper History books that pay any serious attention to the females that could be involved in the matters treated. Of course, piracy is not an exception. Unfortunately, this book is lame. It feels like it's written for a B-class blog meant for teenagers and young adults. The author is clearly unfamiliar with historical research techniques and the text is full of personal views and unsupported assumtions that end up rendering it as an unreliable source. It's not even well written, and the final chapters are simply boring. It's an absolute shame, because you can see that the author's intentions are good, but she simply isn't up to the task. In the end, you can't deny that you learn some new stuff, names, places and events that might serve you as a starting point if you want to look for more reliable sources abour the matter. But the fact is that there aren't many and there are even less focused in female pirates. So everything feels like a dead end. As most people around here think, it's a shame. Maybe I'd rather have learnt what I've learnt reading this book than not knowing it, but this should be so much better.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina Hall

    I really wanted to like this book, but not only was it a little on the dry side, but the author tries so hard to force a feminist message into the book so as to loose focus entirely by the end, talking about many women who were never pirates, stretching historical research with wishful thinking, until she finishes with the Pirates of the Carribbean movie series. It seemed exceptionally strange to include information about women like Sojourner Truth, and fictional characters like Thelma and Louis I really wanted to like this book, but not only was it a little on the dry side, but the author tries so hard to force a feminist message into the book so as to loose focus entirely by the end, talking about many women who were never pirates, stretching historical research with wishful thinking, until she finishes with the Pirates of the Carribbean movie series. It seemed exceptionally strange to include information about women like Sojourner Truth, and fictional characters like Thelma and Louise, who had nothing to do with piracy, except that *maybe* they *might* have inspired these women by their own incredible bravery and agency in times when women were constrained by society to ordinariness? I guess? The pirate women in this book were certainly adventurous and brave, but they were also criminals, and probably didn't care much as a group how civil rights was going back on the mainland. I'm glad to know some interesting facts about actual historical pirates (google Cheng I Sao, she's cool), but overall this book focuses on its message over its research and was a bit of a chore to finish.

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